DC Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency's mobil command unit is displayed before the upcoming Fourth of July holiday in Washington, Friday, June 30, 2023. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

WASHINGTON—The nation’s capital is home to go-go music, the March on Washington and a rising rate of crime. It is neither on Forbes’ Top 10 Most Dangerous Cities in the U.S., nor on their list of the Top 15 Safest Cities.  D.C. is a tale of two cities. There is the part of D.C. where mostly White people live with supermarkets galore and the other part of D.C. in Ward 8 where one of only two supermarkets is threatening to close due massive losses from shoplifting.

Rising crime in Ward 8 has residents alarmed and City Council Member Trayon White recently said at a news conference, “We must declare an emergency regarding the crime and violence in our neighborhoods and act urgently. It may be time to call on the National Guard to protect the children and innocent people that are losing their lives to this senselessness.”

“Elected officials cannot solve this alone,” Mr. White said. “This effort requires the input and cooperation of parents, students, churches, businesses, civic associations, and even those responsible for the violence. We all must do this together. I stand ready to make our streets safe for all who walk them, not only in Ward 8, but across the District.”

Those words were the latest in a growing chorus for extreme help to stem city violence.


Robinett Woodland, Ward 8 Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner (ANC), told The Final Call, “I think at this point the National Guard is needed. I also think there should be a citywide curfew, not the curfew that’s only implemented in certain areas of the city. That will cause violence to move from one place to another. It should be a citywide curfew starting at 9:00 p.m. and the National Guard should be sent in the most violent of the areas throughout the District.”

“There’s no other way to contain the violence,” Commissioner Woodland said. “We have marches on violence in the District of Columbia that do nothing. We have the violence interrupters who have also been getting murdered, and some of them are still into the street life. The younger generation aren’t willing to listen to people who are not leading by example.”

Ron Hampton is the immediate past executive director of the National Black Police Association Inc. and worked 23 years as a D.C. police officer. He told The Final Call, “I think that the council member is crazy. If he understood the history and the image of what the National Guard means for this city as well as the Black community and the people who live in the Black community, he wouldn’t be recommending that. He wouldn’t be suggesting that somehow or another having the National Guard in the city will make our city safer.”

“That’s just not the case and it has never been the case,” Mr. Hampton continued. “What we need to be doing is working in our communities and talking with families and students about the kind of issues that they’re continuing to face as a result of coming out of COVID and not having the resources and the services that they need to make their life better. That’s not something that the National Guard does, nor the police.”

He added, “What I would like to see him do is start talking about marshaling the necessary resources and the people that work in Ward 8 at the fundamental foundational level to address the issues that our families and students and young people are experiencing every single day. That type of strategy will have a significant impact on the issues that are taking place, not just only in Ward 8, but across the city.”

Calls for the National Guard reached Mayor Muriel Bowser. She told the media, “National Guard don’t typically do law enforcement.”

“If we had a specific mission that was in the mission of the National Guard, we wouldn’t hesitate to call on them,” Mayor Bowser explained. “The National Guard, they’re not law enforcement, keep in mind. They don’t know our local laws. They don’t typically make local arrests. What we have used the National Guard for, to perform a very critical public safety function, has been in more traffic posts and we use traffic posts very statically.”

According to the Metropolitan Police Department, homicide is up from 136 in 2022 to 171 as of Final Call press time. That’s an increase of 23 percent. This is alarming because homicides are dropping in dozens of other major cities, including New York, Chicago, Philadelphia and Baltimore.

Nearly two-thirds of D.C.’s homicides this year were committed in the poorest parts of the city, Wards 7 and 8. More juveniles have been killed so far this year than in all of 2022. Sex abuse is up, assault with a dangerous weapon is up and so is robbery. Auto theft is up 114 percent, and arson is up 200 percent.

D.C.’s newly selected Police Chief Pamela Smith, awaiting council confirmation, recently told the media she is “troubled by the crime that is plaguing our community.”

“We’re going to come up with what’s going to be collaborative and impactful across D.C. and we’re going to do exactly whatever we need to do to drive down crime,” Chief Smith said.

Starting September 1, the city will implement a new curfew. Officers will pick up unsupervised youth ages 16 and younger if they’re out in specific areas of the city during curfew between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. and take them to the Department of Youth Services.

Holly Muhammad has been a Ward 8 ANC for the past 15 years. “I’m torn because we need to do something. People are just letting their children run crazy. But I’m concerned about the National Guard coming because I believe they’ll start killing our youth,” Commissioner Muhammad said.

“These youth know that they can do whatever, and they’re not being punished. They are getting picked up by the police and get out the next day, sometimes the same night. What do we do? Let the youth kill us, because that’s what’s happening.  I hear gunshots every single night. Every night.”

As far back as Oct. 24, 1989, the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan warned during his international press conference at the J.W. Marriott Hotel in D.C. that the time was coming when communities would call for the National Guard, but it would be an ill-fated decision.

“The police are saying that they have insufficient arms to combat these drug groups and, therefore, they either need heavier weapons, or the back-up of the National Guard, and Federal troops,” the Minister said. “However, information has come to us that the police have great fire power available to them. And certain areas of the country have been targeted to test these new weapons.

Armored personnel carriers that can travel at speeds up to 70 mph with high caliber machine guns are being stored in the armories of the major cities and the use of certain kinds of gases is being planned. This is being planned to be executed against Black youth in several major cities in the country, one of which is Washington, D.C.”

Minister Farrakhan explained that much of the gang activity is kept alive by outside forces from within the White community and oftentimes by police.  

“Many of our young people are recruited by corrupt police to sell drugs to our people and many of our youth are killed if they violate police instructions, by hit squads from within the police departments. This is what we are learning from so-called gang leaders throughout the country,” he said.